The Rot

The ice caps are melting. The humans knew about it for ages, but, despite all their gadgets and inventions, they’re slow to learn. That used to work in our favour.

Our people weren’t worried when old diseases, long since extinct, started reappearing again. We are small in number, and solitary creatures, so there was still plenty of blood to go around. They breed so quickly, even if a few million were wiped out by plagues, there were still billions more. And it’s not like we can catch their diseases, not even if they live in the blood we drink. It wasn’t our problem.

Some of us even hankered after the times when pestilence was rife, and the city streets were piled high with the dead, and no one would notice a few more humans fade away. We feasted on Kings, on politicians, on bishops. Their blood is so much richer than the homeless and the addicts and the other unseen people we usually have to live on.

They were the good old nights. I’ll admit to a touch of nostalgia for then myself, from time to time, though you can’t beat the convenience of modern times if you ask me. I can order up a meal online now, the humans made apps for it and everything. You just flash a picture of some naked body, and tell them you’re thirsty, and they’ll meet you anywhere you like. They’ll even dress for the occasion, bless their little veins.

But anyway. I can understand why some of us didn’t care. We didn’t care when the wasting disease took them in droves, when their lungs filled with fluid, drowning them on dry land, when their bodies were covered in pustules and sores. There’s always more. But this is different. The Rot has returned.

We met one just the other evening. It was crouched in an alley, just off the square, growling and groaning. Honestly I thought it was in withdrawal, or else mad. I didn’t fancy it, I had a craving for a nice fresh girl, I’ve eaten far too much street food lately. But Scott was starving, so he decided to grab the guy on the way to the club, just a quick snack on the way.

As soon as he tasted the guy, he threw up. I have never seen anything like it, not even that time Mark was exposed to garlic and burned his entire mouth. Black blood just poured out of Scott’s mouth.

“It’s gone off” he complained, but I could already tell it was rotten from the smell.

What fascinated me, was that the guy was unharmed. He walked off like he couldn’t even see us, much less feel the bite, and went straight for one of the humans in the square. And when I say he went for her, I mean he really went for her. He didn’t bite her, he ate her. It took her a really long time to die. She didn’t stay dead for long. The Rot spreads quickly.

Scott and I did some digging once we got him fed again. He wouldn’t even taste someone else until I’d had a nibble first, he was so scared of it happening again, but he’s fine now.

Turns out the humans were super excited when they discovered a well-preserved but very old corpse in the Arctic sea. They took it back to their lab, and defrosted the damn thing so they could chop it up and look at it. Bet they regretted that one when it woke up. Infected them all within minutes. They call it the zombie virus.

Thing is, as the older ones among us will remember well, it spreads really quick. A single bite or scratch is enough to turn their victim, they don’t have to feed a person too. So everyone they bite, turns. And there’s no reasoning with them, no sating their hunger, no stopping them. Entire cities have fallen in days.

We’ve always kept our noses out of human business. And I know we’ve found it easier to let them think we are just a myth. But that has to change now. If we don’t protect the humans from this, we’ll be looking at famine. The wolf is out of its cage now. Time to protect our lambs.

If you enjoyed this short story you might also like The Strange Stories series, available as both paperback and ebook.

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Author: Victoria Pearson

Victoria Pearson lives behind a keyboard somewhere in rural Bedfordshire, with her husband, her four children and her dog. She writes very strange stories.

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